Alex Neil rules out ‘gagging’ former NHS staff

Health minister Alex Neil. Picture: Julie Bull
Health minister Alex Neil. Picture: Julie Bull
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HEALTH secretary Alex Neil today ruled out the use of “gagging orders” in the NHS in Scotland to stop departing staff raising concerns over patient safety.

He also announced that £200,000 is to be made available to tackle bullying and harassment in the NHS during a speech in Edinburgh.

Concern over gagging orders came to light during the Mid Staffordshire NHS scandal, in which hundreds of patients are believed to have died because of poor care. It later emerged that £15million was spent over three years on compromise agreements with staff leaving the NHS, of which 90% were believed to contain clauses to stop whistleblowers from speaking out.

Mr Neil is confirmed today that NHS Scotland does “not support or condone” gagging orders on staff who raise any concerns about patient safety.

He was speaking at the conference ‘Whistleblowing - raising concerns within the NHS Scotland’.

“It is vitally important that all NHS workers feel that they can raise any concerns they may have safely and confidentially, and following the Francis Inquiry, be reassured that health boards will listen,” Mr Neil said.

“By encouraging staff to raise concerns, Scotland’s Health Boards have the opportunity to identify potential problems at an early stage. This not only makes the NHS a better place to work, it also leads to a better health service for patients.”

A free, confidential phone line for NHS staff who wish to raise any concerns about practices in NHS Scotland is currently being piloted.

The Health Secretary wrote to all health boards in February reminding them that confidentiality clauses are not used to prevent staff reporting concerns about practice in the NHS in Scotland.